Director of Student Life's Outlook on Leadership

More students graced the stage at this year’s Student Life Leadership Celebration than ever before--a sharp change from last year, when only one recipient got up while other hard-working students watched from their seats.

According to Russell Barefoot, Director of Student Life, this year's stage is how it should have always looked.

Ever since becoming Director of Student Life in 2011, Barefoot has emphasized that there are many examples of effective leadership in student clubs/organizations and choosing the “best” is impossible because it is too subjective.

Last year he introduced the idea of “Gold Level” status, where any club/organization that meets specific criteria will get an award. One reason for this is to avoid calling recipients winners, which he does not like because it makes the celebration seem like a game.

“When you have a winner, you also have losers,” Barefoot said. “Who wants to be called a loser? It’s a celebration of everyone’s accomplishments. If only one person wins, how is that recognition of these accomplishments?”

Another reason is to award more than one deserving club/organization or individual. Barefoot compared this reasoning to how professors give A’s in classes. “If you only have two people that are allowed to get A’s that doesn’t make sense. A’s are given to anyone who deserves it.”

Although Gold Level was introduced last year, individual awards were also given.  This year was the first where only Gold Level awards were given, which Russell believes better represents leadership on campus.

Barefoot defines leadership as providing “direction, inspiration and cohesion” and emphasizes this at the leadership workshops Student Life hosts once a semester.

“If they are moving somewhere that year and have an agenda that’s direction. Inspiration is doing something that makes members of clubs want to come back. Cohesion is working as a team. Cohesive teams are like a family.”

This definition stems from a biology professor who had a black belt in karate. Years ago while director at a small private college, Barefoot saw this professor talk at leadership workshops.

The professor tied his knowledge of biology into his talks. When he mentioned stress, he talked about the biological way it affects one’s body and how it can be used for motivation. He also talked about direction, inspiration and cohesion as the three leadership principles.

“He was a very wise man," Barefoot said. "The principles wrapped up everything I ever learned about leadership. Everything falls under one of those categories.”

Barefoot said the only thing he would add to the professor’s definition is action. “Without action, these are just ideas. Nothing gets done.”

Barefoot welcomes any students interested in becoming leaders to stop by Student Life, located on the first floor of the Bateman Center, and ask about the different clubs/organizations offered on campus.

Featured image caption:

Russell Barefoot, Director of Student Life, at the Student Life Leadership Celebration.

Read about 2014-2015 Student Life Leadership Celebration.

Christian Rosario
Editor-In-Chief (2013-2015) / The Record
Christian Rosario is the 2013-2015 Editor-In-Chief, website administrator and founder of He majors in Communication Studies at Raritan Valley Community College. He welcomes students of all majors to contribute their talent to The Record.